The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) has been directed by the Office of the Prime Minister to provide funding to tailors and seamstresses to support the mass development of non-surgical face masks, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis revealed yesterday, while also warning the general public not to purchase medical-grade masks because they will be needed by health care workers, especially those on the front line of the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Minnis, who made the plea during his contribution in the House of Assembly, urged the public to wear non-surgical masks when they leave their homes.
“As a personal defense measure, particularly against transmission by people who may not show any symptoms, members of the public are highly encouraged to wear non-medical masks in public,” he said.
“I want to stress, however, that those who are not frontline medical personnel should refrain from purchasing or wearing health masks.
“These masks are reserved for our health workers on the frontline. I would, at this moment, urge every retail store, or persons, who have any stocks or supplies of any medically approved surgical or face masks for sale, to contact the Ministry of Health immediately, in order to sell the same to public health [department], as the sale of any medical masks to the general public will, at some time, be prohibited.”
Guardian Business understands that several people have already begun making non-surgical masks for sale to the general public.
The government is encouraging local businesses to manufacture masks to ensure there are enough for the public. Minnis said masks are one of several items that will now have to be manufactured in the country to supply local demand.
“To ensure the availability of masks for the general public, the government has enabled the production of cotton masks in New Providence through various companies,” he said.
“These masks will be washable and reusable by the ordinary resident.
“[T]o encourage and enable the large-scale production of cotton masks in the Family Islands, the Small Business Development Centre has been directed to provide funding to tailors and seamstresses, so that sufficient masks are also available throughout the Family Islands.
“Let me note that the production of masks presents an economic opportunity for business people and entrepreneurs. Going forward, The Bahamas will have to begin to manufacture a number of items for domestic needs.”
Minnis said this could provide much-needed economic opportunities and jobs.